Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Violation of privacy of passengers here to stay

Neelam Mathews
July 19, 2011

If its happening in the U.S, expect others not to lag far behind. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently ruled body scanning machines do not constitute illegal search.

While this is good news for body scanner manufacturers Rapiscan and L-3 and bad news for those who don't like having to choose between digital nudity and frisking, wonder what are thoughts of users in India? Do we really have any privacy issues left to debate?

Incidentally, the U.S court also found that use of the machines was different enough than traditional machine screenings that the Transportation Security Administration should have sought public comment prior to implementing full body scanners. The TSA has argued that it didn't need to seek public comment on the scanners because it wasn't a legislative decision.
"It is clear that by producing an image of the unclothed passenger, an Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) scanner –( now getting to known as porn machines!)- intrudes upon his or her personal privacy in a way a magnetometer does not," wrote Judge Douglas Ginsburg. "Due to the obvious need for the TSA to continue its airport security operations without interruption, we remand the rule to the TSA but do not vacate it."

The machines are the primary way to detect non-metallic weapons or explosives. At the heart of many of the privacy concerns are the images the machines produce, which basically consist of an unclothed passenger. Of course, anyone not wanting to walk through the body scanner is allowed to choose a pat-down search. Unfortunately, anyone thinking the body scanners were too invasive likely found the pat-down searches equally or more invasive.

Recently, a Tennessee woman was arrested at the Nashville airport for disorderly conduct after she refused TSA security measures for her children. The woman didn't want her two children to have to go through a whole-body-imaging scanner. When a TSA officer told her the machines were safe, she said, "I still don't want someone to see our bodies naked." She won't be pleased with a ruling then out of the D.C. Circuit today. This morning, the federal court ruled that the "naked scans" of air travelers do not violate Americans' constitutional rights.

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